Bringing Bohemian Glamour from Decadent Decades Past!
When I first left school in the early 70’s I worked for a small independent chain of Fashion Boutiques in Liverpool called “ZAX” We sold labels like Bernshaw, Radley, Aristos/Ariella, Miss Mouse…….just a few from the many I can recall! There were four shops dotted over the city, the main flagship store based in the city centre. I was the window dresser,and the youngest member of staff! I loved it!!!!
Platform shoes had just hit the fashion scene and buyers were scrambling to get their hands on the highest most colourful shoes & boots, this was before the high street was awash with chain stores, and mass produced fast fashion like Primark, New look and the likes of today! Trends would sell out quickly & waiting lists would be long, & competition between the independents would be ferocious ….I remember once our black six inch heel, platform boots were delivered to a neighbouring competitor ….there was ‘warfare’ when they would not return our order!!!!!! Hahahaha!!! “I do not jest!!!”
The owners were young & fashionable and used to take me to London on regular buying trips. We would go on the Pullman, this was a luxury city link train, we would have breakfast (No less than silver service on this train!) and a very comfortable first class journey, ready for our hectic buying schedule!!!
And that is when I discovered…………….
……..I thought I had died and gone to heaven the first time I walked through those doors in Kensington High Street……anyone who knows me well will tell you I have waxed lyrical about this magical place ever since & that I can tell you, is a very long time!!! 40 years to be precise!!!
I had read about Biba, in the many fashion magazines I coveted (I would drive Mr Murgatroyd – our local newsagent, crazy with my obscure fashion magazine subscriptions he would endeavour to track down for me!) So I was on a personal mission to explore this Shangri La Ms Hulanicki had created. I was dropped off at the store while my boss’s went off to Vidal Sassoon
My stomach knotted with excitement, I entered! In front of the windows was a low seating area where men lounged, smoking, reading the newspapers, bored & irritated waiting for their partners who had disappeared into the Abyss.
Inside the store was quite dark,with the decor being predominantly Black, but at the front of the store were the most spectacular mirrored counters, displaying cosmetics of every colour of the rainbow!!!! ….AND TESTERS……. out on display!!!! …… to use without a sales assistant hovering over you!!!!
I had never seen such an amazing array…
…Lipsticks & nail polish of black, green, purple, blue????????
…..& plumes & plumes & plumes of thick lush ostrich feathers, fit to crown any Bluebelle Showgirl at the Lido de Paris!
More mirrored alters displaying tights of every conceivable hue…then
…shoes, bags, belts.
Dresses & suits in beautiful sludgy aubergine, olive, saffrons & teal, all hung from bentwood hat stands!! Where were the clothes rails????
……had I found my Utopia?
I spent the next hour or so discovering more of the wonders of this magical place, absorbing this Art-Deco/Bohemian fusion of decor. This cocktail of styles that would eventually influence the way that I would display my surroundings in each home I would create from then on!
On returning back to Liverpool after my first visit I set about creating my own version of this wonderland I had discovered.
On a previous trip we had purchased the most amazing Adel Rootstein Mannequins for the store windows, I was on a roll….. I persuaded June, my boss to take me to ‘Swainbanks Rialto’ a huge antique warehouse formerly a cinema, and we bought a large victorian chiffonier/dresser, I can remember it clearly to this day with its carved gothic style posts, I painted it black & decorated it with plumes of feathers and hung the jewellery from it. I painstakingly decorated black wooden box seats with tiny mirror tiles & topped them with red velvet cushions trimmed with tassels I had made myself all finished off with the obligatory fake palm plants……
Wow how proud of that project was I!!!!!!
..Anyway all these years on I now have my own little trove of bohemian glamour, strongly influenced by my BIBA memories!
To celebrate those wonderful times spent in that ‘Wonderland’ I had a little event aptly named “BIBALALA”……We shared stories and memories and transported ourselves back to those early bohemian years in the 70’s with Velvet Underground & Mark Bolan, Babycham & Twiglets …& a good time was had by all!!!!!
Looking back at BIBA……………………..
TO SEE A SHORT VIDEO OF THE ACTUAL BIBA STORE IN 1974 PLEASE CONTINUE TO SCROLL TO THE BOTTOM OF PAGE! WELL WORTH A VIEWING!!!!!!!!
Every detail of design was carefully thought through (see the cash register below)
The beautiful Art Deco structure of the old Derry & Toms building
And here is a wonderful short film of BIBA in 1974, wonderful to be transported back to that magical place…see what you think if you never actually got to visit BIBA!